Many travel nurses start their careers by working a bit closer to home, but if you’re thinking about taking an assignment out-of-state for the first time, you probably have a lot of questions, from obtaining a license to travel costs and housing.
As a travel nurse, you will need to obtain a nursing license in the state in which you choose to work. Each state has its own nursing license requirements, and some are part of the Nursing Licensure Compact (NLC) agreement which allows nurses to hold one valid nursing license that will work in multiple states. You’ll have the ability to practice in any one of the 34 states that are currently part of the NLC without having to get an individual license for each one.
If the state where you are licensed is not part of the Nursing Licensure Compact agreement, you won’t be able to get a compact nursing license unless you make an official move to a state that is. You can still obtain a license, but it will be only be valid for work in that particular state. If you move to a compact state from your noncompact state, you could then obtain a license for multiple states as long as you meet the eligibility and residency requirements. You will be required to declare your primary residence by changing legal documents like the address on your federal income tax return and driver’s license.
Even if the state you’d like to work in isn’t part of the NLC agreement, the process of obtaining a license is usually fairly straightforward. You’ll have to apply for a license in that state and it will be for that state only; however, there is no limit to the number of single-state licenses you can have.
The cost of traveling to your assignment is often covered as part of a travel stipend. The amount is just another part of the pie, along with housing, bonuses, etc. Travel stipends don’t always cover the entire cost of traveling to and from a particular travel nursing job, as they’re often a set amount. Some agencies pay half the travel assignment on your first check and the other half on the last check of your assignment, that way if the nurses decides to go elsewhere before it’s complete, the agency won’t lose as much money. That said, once you develop a good track record with the company, they may be more willing to take the chance by providing you with a higher travel stipend at the start.
In some situations, like when airfare is required, say if you’re traveling between Florida and California, the agency might just buy the airline ticket. They won’t recoup the cost until all contracted hours are complete, but they’re willing to take the risk.
If the agency you work with secures housing for you, it can make going to a new state a whole lot easier. You’ll work directly with your recruiter or the agency’s department, voicing your requirements and preferences to help ensure the best fit. That means there will be no need to spend hours and hours researching, pay an expensive deposit, worry about turning utilities on, etc. Most agencies have multiple connections in places where they often have open assignments, making it easier to find the right housing. For a travel nurse going to another state for the first time, this is usually the best way to go.
If you do decide to take a housing stipend, which means you’ll receive an amount for housing in your paychecks, you will need to locate, secure and pay for everything that’s involved in renting a place to live during that assignment, such as any deposits and the monthly rent, along with expenses like utilities and Internet. The good news is that finding a place out of state may be accomplished easier these days thanks to the many travel nurse groups and forums on social media networks like Facebook that can provide leads, but its obviously going to take more work on your part, and initially more money upfront.
It’s important not only to ask your recruiter plenty of questions about your new assignment and the facility, but the location itself. The more information you have, the more likely it will be a positive experience. Don’t forget about your personal time outside of work either. Do some research online to find out about the food scene, nightlife, cultural attractions, outdoor activities and so on. Not only will you be better prepared, but you’ll be more excited about going.
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